Saturday, January 30, 2010


For anyone with a thorough knowledge of bTB and the required tea-and-sympathy skills, the NFU are offering three EU funded posts in the SW.
Salary: £27,410 - £33,806
Location: Exeter
Job Type: Contract - 4 years
Source: The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development Europe investing in rural areas. South West bTB Farm Advisory Service (based from the NFU Regional headquarters, Exeter)
The NFU, supported by all farming and related industry organisations, has recently secured funding through the Rural Development Programme England for a four year farm advisory programmes to provide cattle farmers with bespoke Bovine Tuberculosis advice and training in the South West Region.
Being delivered for the industry, by the industry, this initiative will provide practical and technical support, advice and training for trade, supply chain and animal health solutions to all cattle farmers across the South West region affected directly or indirectly by bovine TB. If you want to really help cattle farmers in a 'hands on' and practical way this could be the job for you.
Under the direction of the programme Manager, the service will be delivered by three Advisers who will have a good understanding of Agriculture, Animal Health and the Rural Environment, and be able to "demonstrate an understanding of bTB".

Yup. We understand only too well. Cattle are tested and culled if they react to exposure of m.bovis. Tabular valuation is rubbish if you have spent a lifetime breeding high quality genetics, or if you've purchased expensive bloodlines and they are condemned. There is no appeal. You can't trade, except to approved finishing units, will probably have to shoot calves which you can't sell, and any movements at all have to be licensed by your local AHO - who may, or may not agree to them. Direct slaughter is your only outlet. Your bank may, or may not be sympathetic.

Up to 90 percent of TB breakdowns, both new and ongoing in the SW are down to badgers say AHO risk assessments, but the only 'advice' which can be given to affected farms is 'touch them not'. And possibly a reminder that hidden in the folds of the new Animal Health Bill, are penalties for not keeping 'bio-secure' - whatever that might mean in this context. Hermetically sealed boxes for cows? Shrink wrapped grass?

Update: We understand that key people in various farming organisations have pushed for this initiative, as their telephone lines are busy with farmers asking the same questions. But we are also mindful that our current Minister for (some) Animal's Health, is hell bent on saving cash. Our cash. Compensation cash, (the figure for which in Defra's convoluted accounting system, includes haulage, abattoir costs, valuers and incineration of reactors, but is net of carcase salvage). So while we welcome any support for farmers under herd restrictions, we are very much aware that what may be possible and planned for today, could be completely different tomorrow. And that someones idea of 'bio-security' may have a profound effect on any compensation monies due, however unproven, ineffective, impractical or costly such measures may be. We are also reminded of the words spoken at least twice in our hearing, by the former chief at Woodchester Park's Badger Heaven, Dr. Chris Cheeseman. When asked how to keep badgers and cattle apart, his reply was an unequivocal "You can't. You get rid of your cattle".

We understand that positions will be available in the Midlands and the North as well.

The closing date for the Exeter applications is Monday 15th February 2010 at 4pm, should you feel you have the right skills.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

bTB in Badgers.

While the debate rages about cattle / badgers and now alpacas and other companion animals and their involvement and exposure to the bacterium known as m.bovis, Dr. Zellweger has looked at the effect of the disease on badgers. In a short communication "What Happens In A Badger Sett With Bovine Tuberculosis? " he describes the effect and spread of the disease:
It is not unusual that badger setts are several hundred years old. They consist out of various dens and chambers, well connected and spread out over some 20 to 50 yards 1 to 10 feet underground. Badgers are night active creatures and during wintertime they spend most time sleeping or dosing socially cuddled up in their dormitories ( see BBC Autumn or Spring Watch ). In the open the family of a sett normally has a territory of up to 1 or even 2 square miles which is well defined and regularly marked by urine and latrines. In the dens and chambers the climate being obscure with sticky air and steady temperatures of some 10 - 20 degrees is ideal for numerous bacteria and other germs.
Successive tweaks to the Protection of Badgers Act, have awarded this delightful animal cult status and its home a Grade 1 listing - with an inevitable knock-on effect transferred to Animal Health veterinarians' methods of control under section 10 of the Act. And the badger population, when assessed by members of the Mammal Society increased by 77 per cent over the decade 1987- 97, as Dr. Zellweger points out:
The Badger Act protects "brock" since 1992 hence the population is growing steadily. As data show this goes along with a continuously increasing of bovine Tuberculosis in cattle, alpacas, other domestic species and "brocks" of course.

Any average sett is occupied by a bigger family with a very well organised pecking order. There is one boss and a dominant sow: the total size of the group may be up to a dozen or more. When youngsters move away they have to look out for their own habitat and territory. If they intrude occupied territories they sooner or later are expelled - sometimes after fierce rows. Where do they go to? And where does a diseased animal go to? There are farmyards with muckheaps, sheds and haystacks with mice and troughs with rests of grains or cereals offering shelter and easy food. In summer cattle drink from water troughs in the fields - in any dry summer spell an easy supply for badgers. What when such a weakened or diseased brock - or a dead one - is detected by Pink Panther Toby cat or one of the pack of sheepdogs on the farm?

A description of the effects of this disease, and opportunities for its spread:
Bovine TB ( bTB ) as we know is a very chronic disease affecting various mammal species including people. The most common spreading is by exhaling including coughing for the lungs are "hosting" so called tubercles, which consist out of masses of bacteria either alive ( and therefore well infectious ) or digested by macrophages as defence of the immune system. Every tubercle is a focus of infection and can be an abscess of up to an inch size full of typical crumbly pus. When bacteria are swept via blood or lymph flow systems, they may land in other organs like the kidneys, liver, intestine, saliva glands or skin, where identically after weeks pus can result. Therefore we speak of pulmonary, renal, liver, intestinal or skin TB. Urine of a badger with renal TB can contain 300’000 bacteria per ml. A badger may urinate 4 - 6 times a day some 30 - 80 ml each time. My calculator shows this rises to shedding per day of some 10 times the amount RBS topmanager Stephen Hester gets as bonus for last year earned with public cash ( 90 million germs ). A bit crazy maybe? For a new infection with bTB it would need some 100 - 500 bacteria only.
When badgers fight the risk of scratches and wounds is very high. In a healthy badger these heal out in due time. When bTB is involved it is different. The very slow multiplying bacteria will sooner or later cause smelly excretions, wild flesh and pus which might be infectious - permanently or temporarily. Wounds may be licked every now and then by the very badger or by his mates even. New infection is around the corner, but this time in the intestine.

If a sow with bTB has cubs - or any other sibling of the same sett has got TB - these youngsters may get infected in their very first weeks of life by her own mother. bTB causes a very slow death after suffering over months or even more than a year. Hell - or perhaps worse? What a life prospectus!
And on the 'treatment' of bTB in animals?

Animals with bTB should never be treated hence the slaughtering of some 40,000 head of cattle per year. Even vaccination ( with unreliable BCG ) cannot prevent that further bTB spreading occurs. Antibiotics are not practical for they would have to be applied in adequate daily individual dosage for several months, nota bene causing resistance of other germs in grand style. Contraceptives for various reasons are no option either.
People with bTB are treated with high doses of a combination of 3 different antibiotics over 6 or more months with full success never guaranteed….

Worldwide TB causes millions of victims every year; the main part of those are caused by the human strain Mycobacterium tuberculosis, but bTB ( Mycobacterium bovis ) is equally infectious and dangerous for people.

Dr. Zellweger ends this piece warning "England beware!"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stats? stuck

At the Oxford Farming Conference during the first week of January, The Minister of State for (some) Animal's Health, the Right Honourable Hilary Benn MP., responding to criticism of his non-policy on bTB, hinted that unofficial Defra figures are showing that disease levels fell during 2009.

He is being his usual economic-with-the-truth self or as has been said of his ilk, "if their lips are moving, they're lying".

When there is just a single source of infectious disease, then tracking either New Breakdowns or New Confirmed Breakdowns is a good measure of how control measures are working - or not. But with only sentinel tested cattle under any semblance of Defra control, and a maintenance reservoir of TB encouraged by statute to let rip, in this instance it may not be the most accurate. Defra statistics have several lines of monthly statistics - or they do if they are updated [more on that later] - each giving different information, or the same information in different format..

There is a column showing the number of herds registered on the VetNet system, another showing how many of these are under restriction because of a 'TB incident'; then further totals, including how many of these are 'New Breakdowns', or even 'New Confirmed Breakdowns'. And it is latter which the Minister was clutching when he spoke last week. And it is this heavily sanitised figure which he presents to his European masters.

In the year to August, (which appears to have the Defra statisticians stuck in groove at the moment) the figure of New TB breakdowns is lower than that recorded in the same period during 2008. But, the rest of us, languishing under herd movement restrictions 'because of a TB incident' is up 10.5 per cent on 2008, and almost double the figure of 2006. Cattle slaughtered is about the same. But by mid January, Defra have usually produced the TB stats for November, not August. Gardening leave? Changing the data collection methods? Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic? No idea. But if the news was good, you can bet it would have been published.

The figure for New Confirmed TB Breakdowns equates to around 3.7 per cent of the national herd, and this is the figure Benn is clutching in his Ministerial briefcase. But the number of herds under TB restriction annually is approaching 10 per cent, and to August 2009 - remember August? buckets and spades etc.,? The total was 8.2 per cent of the cattle herds in GB.

This duplicitous hubris also extends to Defra's 'other species' tables, with numbers of alpacas stuck at a comforting 18 on Defra's tables, while a quick round robin telephone call to distraught owners extracted a figure of over 200 animals dead from TB - ten times the 'official' one. Further questioning drew a reluctant 'possibly VLA samples?' as an explanation for the difference.

Polite note to Defra. Bacteria do not respond to bullying, lines on maps or rearranged, delayed or selected statistics of their progress. They just spread.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

" DEFRA policy is essentially doing nothing."

Following our posting summarising the opinions of Dr. Ueli Zellweger on the current one sided bTB non-policy operated with such devastating results by Defra, has received an email from Dr Paul Gillett, M.B, Ch.B, MRCP, FRCPath., which we have permission to post.

Dr. Gillett is a hospital medical consultant with 35 years experience specialising in microbial diseases and infection control, and he supports the remarks made by Dr. Zellweger, a Swiss vet with over 30 years experience.

Dr. Gillett explains that
The decline of tuberculosis in humans in this country owes more to improvements in living conditions, better nutrition, less overcrowding and the pasteurisation of milk than it does to the introduction of BCG.

Studies on BCG vaccination in man show an efficacy of between 0% and 70% and appear to depend on country, nutrition and the prevalence of other mycobacterial infections in the population immunised. Thus a policy to control bovine tuberculosis based almost entirely on the use of currently available vaccines is unlikely to be successful even if one could achieve 100% uptake. Trials on new vaccines will take several years to complete given the chronic nature of the disease in both man and animals, and the outcome far from certain. In the short, and probably medium term this means the DEFRA policy is essentially do[ing] nothing.
(We assume here that Dr Gillett is talking about Defra's Badger BCG vaccination project, rather than a mass BCG vaccination programme across the country to mitigate spillover from TB infected badgers into humans, alpacas, cats, dogs free-range pigs, sheep, goats and cattle.)

Dr. Gillett continues: "It has to be understood that the current policy of testing and slaughtering infected cattle is aimed at preventing the acquisition of bovine TB by humans not cattle. As Dr Zellweger indicates in his letter, to control bTB in cattle, one should be looking to prevent the transmission between and to animals in the herd. This would involve detecting and eliminating sources that pose a threat to cattle and unfortunately the badger is the most important wildlife reservoir that has close contact."
I find it inconceivable that two species of animal that are susceptible to the disease and have proven close contact are not transmitting the disease to each other. Introducing proper control measures is therefore to the benefit of cattle, badger, farmer and the exchequer.
Why then are such measures not instituted?
He continues with the observation that "Some would advocate the mass culling of badgers and one must suspect that it is fear of the political implications of public reaction to such a policy which bolsters DEFRA’s inactivity."
( One may also consider that it suits Defra to keep a wedge driven between those farmers and vets who want a cohesive policy to eradicate bTB from wherever it may be found, and the beneficiaries of the current polemic, in whose interest it remains to keep the gravy-train cash rolling. And 'eradication' of badgers rather than 'eradication' of bTB within their population, is just the word to do it with every trick in the book used to achieve this. - ed)

Dr. Gillett appears to have caught up with the targeted 'management' strategy for wildlife which we mentioned here, and he comments:
There is an intermediate and more appropriate strategy. I am reliably informed by countrymen that it is possible to detect diseased badger sets by inspection of the runs and other signs. Thus it is possible to avoid mass culling - which may actually be counter-productive - in favour of selective elimination of diseased animals. A measure which is to the benefit of the badger population as a whole and the cattle. A group of concerned West Country farmers and vets have recently produced a DVD outlining the present problems and the potential for training others in the recognition of diseased sets. It is to be hoped that a coherent policy may be formulated about such an approach.
Dr. Gillett concludes, "Should an effective vaccine and delivery system become available in due course, then it would be (as in humans) an adjunct to rather than a replacement for effective infection control measures."

(Note: More of this discussion on and 'Bovine TB – A Way Forward', the film by Chris Chapman, which describes a management policy, will be released at the end of January. For details go to the homepage and click on FILM )

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Farmers can't wait ...

.... says Shadow minister Jim Paice, MP speaking to the Western Morning News at the Oxford Farming Conference this week.
Cattle farmers in the Westcountry just don't have the time to wait for a vaccine for bovine tuberculosis, according to shadow farms minister Jim Paice.
The ongoing spread of the disease, which caused the destruction of 40,000 cattle last year, would have to be tackled by dealing with diseased badgers, he insisted.

Mr Paice was speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference and told the WMN that an oral vaccine for badgers would not be available until 2014 – and that was far too long to wait, given the havoc wrought by the disease in beef and dairy farms in hot spots such as the South West.

"We have waited far too long for a conclusion to this dreadful problem and wasted far too much taxpayers' money and got nowhere," he said.

Well he got that bit right.

So how is this little exercise in futility, for which the 'farmers can't wait' coming along?

It was launched in a fanfare which gave the impression that most of the badgers in TB hotspots would be vaccinated against bTB, and that would be that. And £20 million of course, but let that pass.
But that is not strictly true. For a start, the Vaccine Scoping Study is being rolled out in stages. Very slow stages.

In November last year, a PQ submitted by the David Drew, MP received this answer on the progress of our Minister for (some) Animal's Health latest daft idea prevarication project.

From what we can see from that answer, of the six 75,000 acre (300 sq km) blocks of land where it is proposed that badgers endemically infected with bTB, are vaccinated against, er ... bTB, only about 33 percent of the land may be available? And of that 25,000 acres (that's 100 sq km )only about a quarter of landowners have signed up, leaving 75 per cent having declined FERA's invitation to this particular party ? (as at November 10th anyway)

You get the gist of where we're going with this?
Now, cage traps and the use of injectible vaccines are proposed until 2014, when an oral version of vaccine, may become available. So having compressed the land areas into much less than was proposed, further reduced by non-participation, how much further can numbers of endemically infected badgers be squeezed within such a trapping programme? And what is the effect on a 'programme' of vaccination that we are told as farmers needs at least 80 per cent coverage to be effective?

We understand that the hope is for contractors to catch between 60-80% of badgers in each target area to vaccinate. So if no other landowners agree to participate, that will mean 15-20% of badgers being vaccinated in the 100 sq kms plot, which itself has already shrunk from the headline 300 sq km or 75,000 acres.

Contractors are now being asked to tender for this work. But from what we can see, it is a complete dogs breakfast and a way apart from the initial headline grabbing figures offered for public consumption. When "badgers will be vaccinated over six 75,000 acre plots", actually equates to "we may get to vaccinate 5 - 7 % of the badgers in that area" someone, somewhere is taking spin to the extreme. And Jim Paice is quite correct to say 'the farmers can't wait'. Neither can the taxpayers.

But from a contractor's point of view as well, that 'someone' is also on a different planet. These people are being asked to tender to trap and vaccinate 'x' number of badgers in an area of land, not yet decided ? And the badger surveying, we understand, will not be in the hands of the contractors tendering for the job, but 'someone else'. Someone who may assess numbers correctly, but may not. And if they do not, then tough.

Both vaccines and cages are to be the responsibility of the contractor, and their purchase, storage and maintenance, together with assessed labour and area to be covered will be the basis of the quotation offered. This is so vague as to be like catching smoke. Especially as by the date tenders have to be submitted, the majority (80 per cent)of surveying will not have been completed.

Security clearance, public liability and insurance for working with a grade 3 pathogen are also to be the responsibility of the contractor, for what is described as a 'one year contract'.

Walking blindfold on this week's ice and snow would be easier. And much safer.

An update to the Fera (Food and Environment Research Agency) badger vaccine project arrived this morning, giving us a little more meat on its skeletal bones.

Today (8th January) was the closing date for the consultation process, on amendments to legislation which will allow lay vaccination of badgers, using BCG.

And a little more detail is given on Fera's timetable for this project.
"During year one (2010) Fera staff will survey and vaccinate up to 100 sq km of the first Glos. zone at Stroud. They will also begin to survey and vaccinate about half (50 sq km) of the second Glos. area, north of Cheltenham. It is on these two areas that contractors will be trained.
Up to 20 sq km of the other four patches, Staffs, Hereford/Worcs and the two in east Devon will also have received visits.
During the second winter, from November to April, Fera will survey the remaining 80 sq km areas of these four blocks, and the remaining 50 sq km of the zone north of Cheltenham. By the end of 2011, all areas will have been surveyed"

So in 24 months time, at the end of 2011, all the six areas will have been surveyed? And of the original much headlined 1800 sq km, (of which 600 sq km they hope might be signed up), "up to 230 sq km" may have been actioned?

No particular urgency then?

Monday, January 04, 2010

"Eliminate the Cause"

As another miserable and expensive year of Minister’s non-policy on ‘bovine’ TB has drawn to a close, we have received a sobering overview of the situation from Dr. Ueli Zellweger, a veterinary practitioner of some 30 years experience both in this country and Europe.

Dr. Zellweger explains that after so much experience of treating cattle diseases, testing for TB and the experience in other countries in the eradication of this disease and trading implications surrounding TB, he feels ‘entitled to comment’.
“ When a veterinary surgeon is called out to treat a cow or a whole herd of cattle it is vital that he finds the real cause of the trouble. This may be an infection by either a species of bacteria, virus,a mycosis, possibly interaction with parasites or environmental influences. It is the skill and experience of a successful vet, to discover the real diagnosis and to treat and eliminate the very cause”.
He explains that infections with bacteria are normally treated with antibiotics and disinfectants and subsequent preventative care; and that if an infection is treated soon after starting success is most of times quick and guaranteed. But not so easy to treat are chronic infections.
"Bovine Tuberculosis ( bTB ) in 99% of all cases is a very chronic disease, mainly because of the extremely slow multiplying of these bacteria. Death quite often occurs after suffering over months or even years only. Apart of bTB there are quite a number of other strains causing Tuberculosis; e.g. the human strain ( M. Tuberculosis ), the strain causing leprosy, the avian strains including M. Avium paratuberculosis ( Johne’s disease in cattle and rabbits ) and others which may be even harmless.”
Dr. Zellweger then goes on to explore vaccines, saying that there a lot of vaccines against all kind of infections on the market which normally give quite reliable results if administered correctly in healthy animals and humans.

For Tuberculosis the common vaccine is the BCG which was discovered some 80 years ago and has been used to vaccinate healthy babies mainly. But unlike all other vaccines, Dr. Zellweger explains:
“ BCG does not prevent an infection; it just keeps it from becoming generalized, thus reducing the risk that the bacteria are swept into various other organs followed by massive excretion and transmission of disease ( coughing, urine,milk etc ). There is scientific evidence that the efficiency of BCG is not more than 50% and in a lot of countries it is therefore not in use any longer.”
( Here, we would point out that the ability to excrete large numbers of bacteria varies tremendously between species. In cattle, regularly tested with reactors removed for slaughter, half of the kill will show no lesions at all and no bacteria can be traced even in culture as culture forming units ( CFU ). Of those with lesions, AHOs tell us that they ‘can look for half an hour and still cannot find any bacteria’ on a slide with material from cattle lesions. Conversely the smears from even microscopic lesions found in badgers may contain huge amounts of bacteria, and we make no apology for repeating the answers to our PQs which gave a figure of “up to 300’000 bacteria per ml” which may be found in the urine of a badger with TB in his kidneys. Other questions dragged out the nugget that 30 ml urine can be splattered indiscriminately ( across grassland ) at each incontinent void, and that exposure to just 70 or so bacteria are needed to provoke a positive skin test reaction and possibly onward disease in a cow. Alpacas too seem unlucky enough to develop open lesions very quickly, which may contain large quantities of bacteria, facilitating fast spread within the whole herd. But we digress…)

Dr. Zellweger continues:
" Any animal, group or herd of, with bTB is a focus and as long as a focus is not eliminated it is a high risk for further infections. It is outrageous that these aspects are widely ignored by DEFRA for years now with apparently no end in sight. In 2008 over 40’000 head of cattle reacting to bTB ( skin test ) were slaughtered ( with DEFRA predicting a 10 – 20 % increase annual increase, should the ‘dynamics’ of their non-policy not change – ed ). Nobody knows how many 10’000s of badgers and their setts are infected. Thus the infection within this most relevant wildlife reservoir is permanently spreading, including all its risks of infecting further cattle, other farm animals, pets and humans.”
And on vaccination, as Dr. Zellweger has pointed out many times before:
“Vaccinating badgers cannot be the solution for there are locally far too many badgers and setts which are infected." And in his view, “vaccinating cattle with BCG is absolutely contra-indicated, for the only way of diagnosing bTB in cattle will be seriously compromised.”
( The skin test may react in vaccinated animals, and given the ‘damping down’ effect of BCG previously referred to, animals may still be ‘infected’ but not ‘infectious’ - ed). So, Dr. Zellweger explores another beneficial opportunity:
“ DEFRA thinks to manage to develop a DIVA test thus being able to differentiate between a skin reaction caused by bTB and the one by BCG. It is unclear if such a test will ever reach permission or European wide approbation; however there is a high risk that at some stage various countries will decide , that they are not interested in any English beef products any longer when it cannot be guaranteed that there is no bTB.”
And he points out that “the skin test appears to produce many inconclusive or even false negative results ".( But we are aware that it is testing for exposure to the bacteria which causes disease and not the disease itself – ed ) “And that the Gamma Interferon blood test – apart from being expensive – is quite often hampered by some other influences. There is – (Dr. Zellweger says) – definitely no need of another uncertainty in this whole issue.”

So as the New Year begins, with several hundred head of reactor cattle on the bTB killing lines of abattoirs this week, numerous new breakdowns involving many alpacas which have not yet made it to DEFRAs data sheets and not a few pet cats and dogs, Dr. Zellweger concludes that:
“It is horror for me to see how things are going the wrong way and every month some hundred more Farms are starting suffering dramatically. It is not 5 minutes before noon to rethink this whole
approach by DEFRA – politically steered as it is – NO it is half past noon and even with a quick and total U turn the future of battling bTB looks very bleak. Eradicating bTB in Southwest England will take some 10 years at least, with or without this actual Government and its TB Eradication Group, but with enormous costs, efforts and many more tragedies.”
It is 'a horror' to us as well. And an expensive, futile, bitterly divisive waste of resources. But the gleeful chortle of a young inspector lining up over 200 TB reactors in a Midlands abattoir last week, put it all in perspective. "Another load of cattle who won't be polluting the planet" said she cheerfully. So how many ROC global-warming credits can Defra attach to each reactor's tail?

A Happy New Year.

Badgers v. cattle. Relative contributions to disease transmission.

After our posting on the relative infectivety of bTB lesions in cattle, badgers and other mammals, a comment alerted us to work done outside the ISG box, which sought to match the attributed cause of a TB breakdown to either cattle or wildlife. The model used for this exercise found that just 16% of bTb breakdowns in 2004 were directly attributable to cattle movements.

The following is part of the abstract from the paper "Estimates for Local and Movement-based Transmission of Bovine Tuberculosis in British cattle" (Green et al) which was published in 2008.
"Both badgers and livestock movements have been implicated in contributing to the ongoing epidemic of bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in British cattle. However, the relative contributions of these and other causes are not well quantified. We used cattle movement data to construct an individual (premises)-based model of BTB spread within Great Britain, accounting for spread due to recorded cattle movements and other causes.

Outbreak data for 2004 were best explained by a model attributing 16% of herd infections directly to cattle movements, and a further 9% unexplained, potentially including spread from unrecorded movements.

The best-fit model assumed low levels of cattle-to-cattle transmission.

The remaining 75% of infection was attributed to local effects within specific high-risk areas."
We love the pseudonym 'local effect' - excellent.
And this analysis ties in quite nicely with that of actual herd breakdowns in the SW of England, described in our posting here and illustrated with charts of actual bTB breakdowns in Devon, over the same period.

We are already hearing of breaches both north and south in Defra's bTB 'maginot' line. This was an area crayonned in red, which sought to isolate TB to the west of a line on a map, with a 2 km buffer zone on its eastern edge. Pity no one told the 'local effects not to cross it.

The full paper from which the abstract was taken, can be viewed on this link. (Ed- the link may need a second click as it opens, and a further 'OK' to ignore hieroglyphics.)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Wildlife Assessments

We have mentioned the veterinary / farmer wildlife assessment initiative several times but a comment which has come in today reminded us of another option.
"My friend in Cornwall, an Alpaca owner who has already lost many of her Alpacas to TB, has taken the bull by the horns and had a private company, owned and run by former Defra wildlife employees, to survey her farm and recommend what needs to be done to minimise the impact of TB and how to reduce badger access to her farm."
This visit was most successful and, says our commentator, possibly a service that others may wish to adopt.

The company was founded by ex WLU manager Paul Caruana and other colleagues, all of whom have a wealth of knowledge of wildlife, particularly badgers. It trades as Field Services South West. We have previously posted some of Paul's comments from when he was a field manager taking orders from the diminutive John Bourne, and trying to catch badgers (fairly unseccessfully, it would seem) - in the manner which ISG instructed demanded, during their RBCT Badger Dispersal Trial.

FSSW can contacted via their website: or mail them at

The comment continues:
Having had a relative employed in the Wildlife Unit, I know that many of them have the skills to be able to usefully & practically advise farmers & alpaca owners on the risks they face and the actions they can take to avoid getting this diseases into their herds.
And concludes that the excercise "sounded most useful" and asked if we could put a name to this service, which we are happy to do.